I've been a member of a number of critiquing groups over the years, and they have all taught me something. Sometimes the lessons are more about human behaviour than creative writing techniques, but even that is useful for a writer. I've sought out critiquing groups in order to have a fresh set of eyes and ears review my work and to learn from other's strengths and mistakes. Through these groups, I've met some great writers and a number of friends. I also think I've become a better writer and critiquer.
But is it time to move beyond critiquing groups?
That's the question I'm asking myself as I near the final stages of my novel-in-stories. My current group includes writers from other genres, and increasingly I'm finding their feedback doesn't hit the mark. Such as conversations about "real men" and what they would or wouldn't do. A cowboy story and a gritty urban drama will include male characters who are almost the complete opposite of the privileged young man I'm writing about. So telling me to make my character more violent doesn't speak to my story.
Discussions about craft and the themes in my book are what I'm really craving at this point. But in order for group members to fully grasp my themes, they'd have to read the entire manuscript -- not just short sections at a time. So I'm thinking that it might be time to find a mentor. I feel ready to share large chunks of the work with a writer or editor to get his/her feedback on the bigger picture. I feel ready to really test the book and start making some major revisions, where necessary.
So I'm researching mentorships for the coming year. If you know of any good programs, please share them with me. And if I find a good one, I'll share it with you.
Lastly, I want to share a bit of good news. In January, I was accepted at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in Southern California for a two-week writer's retreat in April-May. I'm thrilled about the opportunity. What a great way to start 2012!
I'll provide updates about the retreat in future posts, including photos. So please visit this site again and share your experiences at Dorland, if you've been there.